Nothing Happened in Singapore

Kim and Trump Shake HandsThe summit meeting in Singapore today was a perfect Donald Trump event.

Stagecraft, suspense, pageantry, rhetoric, photo ops, but no real results. Just like on the game show that made him famous, tune in next week to see what happens. After an hour of talking, the two leaders staged a signing ceremony, of a vague document containing promises to do something in the future, full of platitudes about security and prosperity for North Korea.

I’ll be happy if our dealmaker-in-chief pulls off some kind of binding agreement that actually reduces tensions or removes the threat of nuclear war, because hey — who wants nuclear war? But I’d feel a lot better about this whole thing if somebody smarter than Donald J. Trump were over there negotiating in my name. Political and military analysts around the world are saying that the North Koreans have reneged on too many promises over the years to be taken seriously this time without a specific agreed-upon set of requirements and on-the-ground inspections to guarantee compliance, neither of which are in today’s document.

As expected, Trump has made all the concessions so far:

  • First, a few weeks ago he backed down on routine annual joint military exercises with South Korea, then today announced he is halting them completely (apparently without discussing his decision with our allies in the region, namely South Korea and Japan).
  • Then he allowed the murderous dictator of an isolated and brutal regime to be seen on the world stage standing as an equal to the president of the United States, an honor the North has been seeking for three generations, and all previous presidents have denied them.
  • He decided that there was no need to discuss human rights violations with Kim, whose people are starving and who has 120,00 political prisoners in camps around the country.
  • Kim did agree to begin to repatriate the remains of 5,300 allied soldiers who were killed in the Korean War 70 years ago, many of whom are buried in unmarked mass graves. This could help bring some peace to their families and survivors, but I wouldn’t call it a “concession.’ This is what civilized leaders and nations do all the time.

Other than that, Kim agreed to destroy a missile testing site “soon,” whatever that means, especially considering that the testing has already been completed.

Trump has been more or less continuously bragging about this “historic” summit for the past 36 hours, but up to now Kim Jong-Un seems to have won all the historic concessions. To use one of Donald Trump’s favorite phrases, “We’ll see what happens.”

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